The Undiscovered Joys of the Ceiriog Valley
If it’s outstanding natural beauty you’re after, then you’ve come to the right place. Waterfalls and cascades race down every crevice of these scenic moors, and in true Welsh style it’s the birth place of poets, home to fine artists and craftsmen, and bursting its riverbanks with activities for the adventurous. The gateway to the Berwyn Range is “a little slice of heaven” according to David Lloyd George, the only Prime Minister of the UK to speak Welsh as his first language.
Just over the hill from popular tourist destination Llangollen, inquisitive visitors will discover the somewhat wilder Ceiriog Valley, made up of several small villages which were built to welcome travellers. Centuries ago it was so-called ‘drovers’ herding their cattle over mountains to markets that sought respite here. Farms turned inns, offered comfort and warmth in secluded tranquility. And not much has changed.
The River Ceiriog springs out of the mountains 1,800ft above sea level and pours down the valley into the River Dee at the small town of Chirk. Famous for its medieval National Trust-run castle, with its treasured gates and stained glass, at which you’ll find a full program of events, regular walking groups, and now even SegTrek. Yes, you guessed it, one may now explore the 5.5 acres of Chirk Castle’s pristine estate on a Segway!
SegTrek, North East Wales by Tom Cart
Narrowboats can be hired at Chirk Marina for laid-back holidays along the Llangollen or Ellesmere canals. Walkers can experience the eerie thrill of walking the Chirk Tunnel footpath. This near 1/2 kilometre long canal way with no lighting, leading out onto an aqueduct which traverses the border with England 70 feet above ground, delights visitors with vistas of the valley in every direction.
Only simple village shops with Post Office counters remain now as we head into this rural valley, seemingly untouched by commercialisation or mobile signal - perfect for when the beeps and buzzes are bringing you down. Mostly meadow and woodland, it is a haven for bird-watchers (RSPB field trips - starting April), the home of sheep dog trials, (Ceiriog Valley Show - August Bank Holiday) and heaven for fell runners (Annual Ceiriog Canter 11km - September). Here the main attraction is the pure wildness of the region which is traversed by Offa’s Dyke at Castle Mill - great walking routes can be discovered on the National Trails website.
Experienced riders will love biking like a bat out of hell down the water worn rocks of the endless available descents; try The Pheasant Track or seek out something a little more tame on the North Wales Mountain Bike Route Guide.
Art lovers will discover nooks of creativity too, visit the Tithe Barn in Llanarmon D.C. where the current exhibition is ‘Ceiriog Valley in Colour’ by Rosie Davies. Several traditional wood and slate craftsmen with showrooms can also be found, and a Memorial Institute at Glyn Ceiriog remembers three notable local poets, Huw Morus, Robert Elis and John Hughes.
An area steeped in history, the Glyn Valley Tramway supported the mining industry here once-upon-a-time and there are relics all over the area. Keep your eyes on stalks for disused quarries and their subsequent buildings and snap and soak up the likes (when you’ve got signal) of the preserved Waiting Room at Pontfadog.
As the roads narrow into Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog (D.C.), one might expect more rustic services out here in the back of beyond but on the contrary, this tiny village has luxury rooms galore, the finest of dining and outstanding service, perfected over centuries. The Hand at Llanarmon is one of the nation’s cosiest pubs according to the Sunday Telegraph. A 16th century hostelry, full of character and charm, their recently renovated rooms even extend a roaring inglenook welcome for your four-legged friends. This really is a hidden treasure and with a couple of rosettes in the kitchen, hungry travellers may want to keep the secret close.
The Hand, Llanarmon, North East Wales by Joe Bickerton
Opposite is an equally historic former farm turned hotel - The West Arms has unique character-filled rooms with free standing tubs for a post-exploration soak
Venture a little further to find one of the Seven Wonders of Wales, and camp under the stars at the magnificent Pistyll Rhaeadr Falls, the tallest waterfall in Wales (and England).
Pistyll Rhaeadr Falls, North East Wales by @Positive_pixels_photography
The Ceiriog Valley certainly feels remote, but it’s far from uncivilised. The perfect destination for adventure and relaxation, deep in the heart of North Wales.